There is no right or wrong amount to give when it comes to donating money. When coming up with a figure though, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Any amount of money you can afford to give will be appreciated. It is a cliché but every penny does count so don't shy away from donating because you only have $10 to spare.

  • Most charities suggest some level of giving. For example, a mail solicitation from a charity might say something like "check this box to make a $50 donation, check this box to make a $100 donation," etc. Remember that you can choose one of these levels or you can write in your own amount if you prefer. Don't feel "boxed" in by their suggestions.

  • Several organizations offer benefits for donations. These can range from free tote bags and T-shirts to having your name plastered on the side of a library. While these perks are nice, remember that the cost of these premiums might be taken out of donations, leaving less to go to the actual charity. If you feel strongly about all of your money being directly donated, check with the charity for their policy before you donate.

  • There are several ways you can structure your donation. You can give a one-time gift, an annual gift, or even a monthly gift if you so choose. Most charities that solicit donations do so once a year but you can always donate on your own schedule.

  • Only donate money that you are sure you can spare. It's pretty counterproductive for you to get evicted for not paying your rent because all your money has gone to house the homeless.

  • See if your employer has a "matching gift" program. Many companies will match the donation an employee makes to a charity. This is a wonderful way to double your gift and force that nasty company of yours to grow a soul.

  • If you want to claim your donation as a tax reduction (we'll talk about that more in Step 5), you must get a receipt. So you can't write on your tax form that you gave Crazy Dave on the corner $1000. (Unless Crazy Dave is a legitimate organization from which you can get a receipt, of course.)